The sea. A place where every man may sail and every creature can swim, without permission or purpose. An endless desert of water that stretches out far beyond what the eye can see, sparkling in the sun as if it was made of liquid diamonds. It is a land that lays unclaimed, as it always has and always will be. A no-mans land that stretches into the horizon, creating a plane of blue hues well off into the expanse.
For some, the sea is Heaven on earth. It's a place where one can have the adventure of a lifetime, sailing endlessly onward until they are old and slouched. Many a man has dreamed of the fortune lying below the whitecaps, and has devoted life to the plundering of the depths, forever searching for wealth and treasure. The sea is looked upon as a place of freedom, owned only by its own waters; a place where destiny is more important than duty. An endless exploration for wild hearts and untamed souls.
For others, however, the sea is nothing but a pathway on a journey to an unwanted life; an endless journey to an empty home where happiness does not dwell. Its winds only bring one closer to an imprisoned being where only rancid memories will be made; A stretch of water that leads only to despair and disappointment, its waves a constant reminder of a destination where unhappiness will rule.
Perspectives, however, can change.
The day of November tenth was gloomy from the start. Fog had developed since the previous nightfall, and had quickly enveloped the air in a blanket of dense mist that only seemed to thicken with each passing hour. Nothing could be seen beyond twenty yards into the distance with the naked eye, and spy glasses couldn't see an inch further. No sounds could be heard in the thick gloom; not the crowing of the gulls or the murmuring of dolphins, casting a leery silence over the waters of the Caribbean Sea.
What was even more exceptionally peculiar about the day was the water. It was completely calm, totally untouched by even the smallest of ripples. Not a single wave disturbed the normally rocky waters, and the common crystal blue color had turned a cold grey, plumes of silver steam settling on its surface. The quietness of the sea was unnerving.
Despite the hazy weather and perilous sailing conditions, a lone ship cut through the eerie waters of the Caribbean like a hot knife through softened butter. The ship seemed to float across the sea, leaving the water oddly untouched as it sailed into a non-existent horizon. The Amelia, however, was a ship of persistence.
The Amelia, a regular trading ship, was running one leg of the Triangular Trade Route between England and the Caribbean islands, engaging in the trade of sugarcane, pure sugar, and molasses. Today, like any other day, the deck of the ship was bombarded with crew members performing their regular jobs. The Amelia, however, was not taking a regular journey to Jamaica; on this particular voyage, the ship was carrying cargo much more valuable than mere molasses.
The crew aboard The Amelia's deck carried on their duties without noticing anything out of the ordinary in the weather or on the deck. Diligently working, the unruly men didn't even notice the presence of a peculiar passenger aboard the deck, or, if they did, they were unfazed by it, even though a woman had never before stepped foot on The Amelia before.
The figure standing at the bow of the ship was a young woman, if she could even be called a woman. She stood very still, as if a statue, her hands running over the smooth wooden railing as her eyes peered out into the fog. A non-existent breeze unsettled the long brown tresses of hair atop her head, and caressed her delicate ivory skin. She was overlooked by the bustling ship members, who cared nothing of her, only about her worth. She was merely a piece of cargo that they had been instructed to ignore; a burden that they would soon deliver and be rid of.
She was Virginia DeVereux, the daughter of Edward DeVereux, the owner of the largest cane plantation in Jamaica and the master of a large ship fleet, The Amelia part of his convoy. Edward, being one of the wealthiest men on Port Royal, The Amelia's destination, had several connections with the top men of England, including the King and Queen. Being his only daughter, and secretly his most adored child, Virginia was an extremely important "passenger" aboard The Amelia. The crew, nevertheless, had been given ghastly consequences as to what would happen if any harm or mistreatment would come to her, many of which included dismemberment; they thought it best to overlook her.
The Amelia was taking Virginia, along with many of the DeVereux household staff, away from their London townhouse to travel to Jamaica, where they would take up residence. For Virginia, Port Royal was nothing but a dew location where old rules still reign. As in London, she would be paraded about in pretty dresses and forced to dine with every important person on the island in order to boost her marriage prospects, despite the fact that her father had already handpicked her a suitor. The sea was only a passage bringing her to an unwanted life of social hierarchy and stuffy acquaintances, but Virginia had no say in the matter, nor would she ever. Women were only an afterthought in the world.
Looking out into the distance, Virginia's unblinking eyes began to water as a slight shiver ran down her spine. A peculiar chill was in the air, despite the usual heat that accompanied a Caribbean climate. As she gazed out into the expanse she saw nothing of the thick silver fog, or the dark grey water. Instead, her mind was reeling with thoughts and questions that had been brewing in her head for the past few months. Her mind flickered from one instant to the next, unable to focus properly.
Virginia flinched as an unexpected voice came from behind her. She had not even heard her brother approach, and surely did not welcome his presence.
"Virginia?" His voice repeated her name, and quavered very slightly with a tone of worry, but she did not turn to meet him.
"Yes, Adam?" she questioned, still focusing on the hazy yonder.
"Come, little sister, let's get you below deck before you catch a cold. The air out here is bloody freezing!" Adam exaggerated the current situation as he touched her shoulder to turn her to face him.
"I think I'll stay above for…" Her words were interrupted by a humorous chuckle.
"Oh, stop being difficult," Her brother told her, "We can't have you getting sick just before our arrival, now can we?" Virginia opened her mouth to speak, but Adam rambled on, "No, no, of course we can't! Father would have my hide if you arrive in Port Royal unkempt, not to mention Heath, or should I say Mr. Haywood?"
Adam laughed nervously, checking his pocket watch impatiently, obviously annoyed by his little sister's silly antics, wanting to return to his own priorities.
Virginia heaved an inward sigh, knowing that nothing she said or did could do her any good, or deter her brother's efforts. Defying her older bothers only made them angry. They never took her seriously. Women were not meant to be taken seriously, they were to abide by the rules of society, where males made the orders that females obeyed.
"I suppose I could do with an afternoon nap before supper," Virginia lied, feeling wide awake. She would much rather be out on deck in the fresh air rater than below deck where it reeked of melted sugarcane. Nevertheless, she didn't have the energy in herself to reason with her obstinate brother, and thought it better to go along with his wishes.
"That's the spirit!" Adam exclaimed gleefully, slapping his pocket watch closed and slipping it back into his coat pocket. He offered Virginia his arm, and began to lead her across the deck.
Virginia couldn't help but notice how the crew members seemed to stiffen as she passed by, some avoiding eye contact while others stared at her greedily. She suspected that it was only every so often that they had a woman in such close proximity, except, of course, for the Singapore prostitutes that she had heard about in gossip from the Londoners. Virginia would never in a million years, not for all the gold in the world, allow one of those dirty men to touch her. They were utterly appalling with their rotten, missing teeth, tangled, matted hair, and yellowing scurvy eyes.
Going below deck, Adam led her down the short flight of wooden stairs that led her to the level of the ship where her quarters were located. Virginia's boot-clad feet stuck to the sugar laden floor, creating odd squelching noises as she walked. Reaching the door that had the word "CAPTAIN" etched into it, the two siblings stopped. While on board The Amelia, Virginia was put up in the Captain's usual room on her father's orders. The most elegant and comfortable room on the ship belonged to her.
Opening the door, Adam winced as its hinges squeaked loudly, and then grimaced (as he did every time upon entering) at the room's interior. However grand by the ship's standards, Virginia's temporary quarters were nothing but a shack compared to what DeVereux family members were used to living in. The rooms provided only for the most elementary comforts; a half-stuffed cot in the corner, a cracked washing bin, an uneven writing table, and a dusty bureau with missing drawers. Adam found this completely repulsive, and Virginia knew that he was somewhat jealous, as his room didn't have a writing table. Virginia wasn't nearly as disgusted by her bedroom. She didn't mind the simplicity as much as her brother, but rather welcomed it. Truth be told, she got very tired of the constant pampering she received at home. A pampered life becomes dull if one is never able to work, provide, or decide for him or herself. Pampered people become dependent, and dependent was the last thing Virginia wanted to be. Above all else, Virginia wanted freedom, something that she feared she would never have.
Adam quickly led her into the room, lighting the oil lamp next to the bed. He hastily looked about the room, obviously impatient to leave, "Everything's in order, then?"
Virginia forced a smile, "Yes, Adam, thank you."
"I'll come to wake you before dinner tonight. Be sure to get plenty of rest, you're looking paler every day," He edged his way back into the hall, "Father wont be pleased to see you in the state you're in."
He closed the squeaking door after his parting, leaving Virginia to herself.
Virginia was used to being alone. For the past month onboard The Amelia, she spent most of her time in her temporary bedroom on her own, seeing as how her brothers usually didn't have time for her, and thought it best for her to stay in her quarters rather than on deck where the filthy mongrels called sailors were. Every now and again, a familiar staff member turned up, but they had been instructed to keep unseen, as most of the staff was women, who were not welcomed aboard the ship. Although a familiar face was always received well, Virginia didn't mind her solitude; truthfully, she reveled in it. Normally she was never left alone.
Virginia DeVereux had been born in Jamaica only seventeen years ago to a very respectable family. At just two years old, the DeVereux family made the crossing to England where Edward and Emmeline DeVereux thought it best to raise their two sons and infant daughter in London, where society was well and the economy was booming, opposed to Jamaica, an island with unruly residences and the occasional pirate plundering. The DeVereux's, however mindful of their children's well being, did not expect for the worse to occur. When Virginia was seven, her mother, Emmeline, passed away from an unknown disease that she procured while away on a vacation to Africa, and her passing deeply affected the family. Virginia couldn't remember much of her father for many years after her mother's death.
Virginia and her brothers, Adam and Fitzgerald, were taken care of by a hoard of nannies and housekeepers whenever their father was away on business, which was ten months a year. Emmeline had been Edward's everything, and he took her parting extremely difficult, and buried himself in travel and work. Virginia could remember learning to read and letter from her father's letters and ship logs, his handwriting still fresh in her mind. Her favorite time of year as a young girl was the Caribbean hurricane season, when the waves were wild enough to cut off trade, sending her father home to London. He always came bearing foreign gifts for her and her brothers, but Virginia saw how uncomfortable he was in the house he and his wife once shared.
Edward DeVereux had come to part with his wife's death in Virginia's twelfth year, as he returned to London from his latest adventure, and stayed for two years, traveling only when business demanded it. These two years were some of Virginia's study, watching as her brothers, both young men at the time, learned to map and navigate from the mater himself. Even though she had never directly been taught such things as ship directing and navigating, ("It's not proper for such a delicate young woman!" The old maids would tell Edward) Virginia was able to gain knowledge of by merely watching her brothers learn.
She had always envied her brothers growing up. Adam and Fitzgerald were constantly doing things that she yearned to try; fencing, cricket, wood crafting. Being a girl, however, Virginia was taught separately, her lessons consisting of much more enlightening, and much more boring, subjects. Her lessons included languages, literature, and the arts. Instead of being able to run through the rain puddles as her brothers did, she was kept indoors, reading her latest novella because the maids had insisted that if she were to go outside, her petticoat would surely be sodden. Never was she allowed to do anything that was deemed improper for a young lady.
Now, as she sat in her ships quarters, Virginia knew that all hope for an adventure, or any kind of freedom, was gone. She was going to be expected to be perfect in her new home, as there were many men eager for her acquaintance, all of them looking for a wife. Of the men pursuing her left finger was one that her father already had deemed suitable, and was pushing for a proposal. Heath Haywood, the son of a very wealthy late Naval captain, was already one of the Queen's commanding officers of Port Royal at the tender age of twenty-four. His ship, Englander, was one of the largest and most reputable of all the seven seas. Virginia had met Mr. Haywood only once, and could see why he met her father's sky-high standards.
Sighing deeply, ignoring thoughts of her childhood and dampering worries of her future, Virginia felt a wave of sudden sea sickness hit her deep within her, her abdomen lurching uncomfortably. Lying down gently on the painfully thin mattress, she felt the ship sway uneasily beneath her. Closing her eyes, she willed herself into a forced sleep, for in her dreams she could momentarily forget reality.